Where: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St., Gainesville
Maybe not as rocky as the mined materials in its quarry off Candler Road, but the road to Monday’s Hall County Planning Commission meeting has not been a smooth or straight one for Hanson Aggregates Southeast.
The planning board is set to consider Hanson’s application for a 113-acre expansion of its quarry, property that sits at the end of Dixieland Farm Road in southeast Hall, less than a couple of miles from Jackson County.
The proposal first reared its head in May 2003 and was denied. The application then wound its way through the courts, which ordered the application back to Hall County for reconsideration.
The matter returned Jan. 20 to the planning commission, which voted to delay Hanson’s request to July 19 to give the company and neighbors time to hash out differences.
The meeting was postponed again to this week to give even more time.
“We’ve had a number of meetings ... and we’ve made some changes to the conditions of the rezoning as result of that,” Wayne Phears said last week. Phears is an Atlanta lawyer who has represented Hanson for some 20-plus years.
Hanson is seeking to change the zoning designation to heavy industrial from agricultural.
“I feel like we’ve worked very hard with the neighbors and we’ve made some good changes to the proposal, and they have had some good ideas,” Phears said.
Several area residents voiced opposition at the Jan. 20 meeting, according to the minutes.
Mike Nieznany, who lives on Dixieland Farm Road, told the planning board he couldn’t open doors at his home in the summer “because there is so much dust in the air” from Hanson’s existing operations.
The current mining is located north of the proposed expansion site and the processing operation is north and west of the site, Hall planning director Randy Knighton said.
Lloyd Williams, who lives on Cook Drive, said at the time that “he is on well water and is sure the blasting disturbs it.”
Phears defended the project at the meeting, saying that “a lot of effort was put into getting a piece of property that made good sense (and) getting (land) that was surrounded on two sides by industrial property.”
Hanson, which began operating in the area in 1953, has “worked very hard to put together a good application that addresses the concerns of the neighbors,” Phears told the planning board.
Phears said last week that the company has worked the hardest on refining well and blasting damage protection programs.
“In both of those, we are trying to assure (residents) that they won’t have issues but if they do, here’s an easy way to get them resolved,” he said.
Nieznany and Williams, along with others who spoke that day, couldn’t be reached for comment last week.
Albert Williams, who lives on Kim Drive, several streets away from the proposed site, said the existing quarry is “a pretty good ways from my house” and he hasn’t experienced any problems.
He also didn’t have strong concerns with the proposed site, which would be closer to his house.
“I put my trust in God, not in men,” Williams said, adding that he knew the quarry was there when he built his home in the area. “I put it in the hands of the Lord. ... If they are wrong, the Lord will take care of them.”
The planning board can only recommend approval or denial of applications to the Hall County Board of Commissioners, which has final say on such matters.
If all goes as Hanson hopes, the expansion project would begin in January 2012 — as had been long projected.
“Part of the reason you do this way ahead of time is to give people fair warning,” he added. “... We don’t want people to buy a piece of property right next to us not knowing that this is mining property.”
Still, Hanson is going to need some kind of expansion to keep up operations.
“We can’t grow this stuff. It doesn’t replenish,” Phears said.